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When things go bad

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07 September 2010

Alexandra Anghel, WebCrumbzWe continue our rotating Startupbootcamp blog series - our ten teams take turns sharing their thoughts and experiences on their Startupbootcamp adventure. This entry is by Alexandra Anghel of WebCrumbz.

 

Starting a business is never easy. As an entrepreneur, you have to face problems that you would rather avoid and hear things you don’t want to listen to. After all, who likes to be told that “Your business idea is not good enough” or “I don’t see how this idea will work”, especially coming from people that have an established name in their domain?

But the fact is that all entrepreneurs out there will have to listen to unpleasant commentaries and negative feedback. Sure, it’s all nice and rosy when you are getting positive opinions, but even so, if they are coming from a subjective source (for example from your friends and family), you might be deluding yourself.

So, how do you know that you are doing something wrong?

From our own experience, we have learned that you shouldn’t be afraid to tell people about your idea and ask them what they think. Do you need a non-disclosure agreement for that? We think not, and for two reasons. One of them is that, without the feedback from your potential customers, your great product is not worth anything. Second, unless you are Apple working on their new product line, such secrecy will not be welcomed by potential investors  So unless you are sure that your idea will turn you into the next Bill Gates, don’t be secretive about it.

After you start gathering feedback, you should really start listening to it. Don’t dismiss negative comments on the grounds that “They didn’t understand my product idea” or “They are not even my customers”. If they don’t get it, it means you haven’t explained it well enough. Work on your presentation skills until the message is clear for everyone.

If your pitch is pretty good, but you are getting mixed reviews, then you might have a problem with your business plan. Every entrepreneur out there should be able to answer basic questions like: “What is the added value for your customers?”, “How are going to scale?” and the most unpleasant one – “How are you going to make money?”. If you find yourself babbling, it means your baby project is sick and you need to take it to the doctor. It’s back to the drawing board, even if that means throwing away months of work. In the end, this is why we are called start-ups – we are allowed to make mistakes, but we have to learn from them and adjust quickly.  If at the end of the day you have that weird felling that something is wrong with your idea don’t ignore it, do something about it.

For us, that meant changing our project idea so much that we can’t even describe it as “pivoting”, but more adequately as “jumping of a cliff”.  Our first week at Startupbootcamp we had lots of positive feedback from mentors on our idea (we were in the green web space), but we couldn't answer the difficult question of how to execute and monetize.

Being experienced IT consultants we had an idea in our drawer which came to us from a concrete problem many of our customers brought to us:  how to port their websites to mobile platforms. Our new idea is now Webcrumbz.net, an online platform that enables both individuals and companies to easily and cost-effectively morph their current website into a mobile compatible version.

We were a little scared at jumping off the cliff with a new idea after the first week of Startupbootcamp but we're happy with the way everything turned out for us.  We're now really looking forward to your feedback on the alpha website webcrumbz.net. Also if you want to stay in touch with our future progress, please make sure you visit our blog, like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter.

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